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February 19, 2007

Tim Hardaway Disappoints Former Coach

As an assistant coach at University of Texas-El Paso in the 1980s, Rus Bradburd discovered and recruited Tim Hardaway—which was a major coup for the young coach and affords him a unique perspective to evaluate his former dribbling student's homophobic comments last week. Hardaway, reacting to news that former NBA player John Amaechi had come out as gay, told a Miami radio station, "I hate gay people." Bradburd told Gelf, "It was a major disappointment to have our hero appear to be a mean-spirited bully." Here's more from Bradburd, author of Paddy on the Hardwood: A Journey in Irish Hoops and an English instructor at New Mexico State:

I think what appealed to all of us about Tim Hardaway was that he was a small guy, just 5'11", making it in the glitzy world of pro ball. Tim was totally unrecruited, nobody knew who he was, and so in that sense, he came "up" the hard way. His mother was a postal worker, which in Chicago is really hard physical work. His parents were divorced, but his Dad lived down the street, and was a truck driver. So, not utter poverty, but pretty humble.

Tim was an underdog we could all relate to, although I think for racial reasons, more kids dig Steve Nash now. It was a major disappointment to have our hero appear to be a mean-spirited bully. You only have to substitute the word "Negro" in there for "Gay" to realize that those feelings were exactly what people were saying when it was time to integrate our troops (which, shockingly, took place after we disposed of Hitler) or time for Negroes to get a chance in Major League Baseball. Sadly, this seems to be the story: Rather than blacks or whites, straights or gays, it is always the powerful picking on the oppressed. This is played out in the Middle East, and is also, incidentally, why the Irish are miffed at America's growing role as World Bully. The Irish have seen that before: 800 years of the Brits bullying the Irish.

I'd also add that ''faggot" and "pussy" are two of the worst things that basketball players can call each other…and that Tim's attitude, while disgusting, is likely more common than anyone would care to admit. Finally, I've always found Tim Hardaway to be polite, kind, and decent…so this likely reflects what is our "next frontier" for progressive circles to deal with in sports: Gays are people, too.

Related in Gelf

•ESPN excises "gay" from user comments about the Amaechi news.

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